OFFICIUM


"DUTY"
Perhaps the single most important idea the Romans incorporated into their culture from the Stoics was their concept of the logos. The universe is ordered by God and this order is the logos , "meaning" or "rational order" of the universe. Each and every event, physical and historical, has a place within this larger rational order. Since the order is rational and meaningful, that means nothing happens which is not part of some larger reason or good (compare this with Boethius' Christianization of this concept). For the Roman, this larger good came to mean the spread of law across the face of the planet; this law was to be spread through Roman imperial conquest. Therefore, each and every function a Roman undertook for the state, whether as a farmer or foot-soldier, a philosopher or emperor, partook of this larger purpose or meaning of world history.

The central value of this complex then is officium, or "duty," which is the responsibility to perform the functions into which you have been born to the best of your abilities (see Epictetus' discussion of duty as an example: one's job is not to pick the role one plays, but to play whatever role one has been given to the best of one's abilities). Each station in life has its duties; every situation in life has duties or obligations incumbent on it. The primary duty one owes is to the state; since God is using the Roman state to further law and civilization, performing one's duty is a religious act. Since most Romans find themselves not as leaders but as followers, the most important aspect of duty is to obey and respect authority (pietas) since that authority ultimately gains its meaning and value from the logos .

How does this differ from the Hindu dharma?



Join our discussion.
























Mail Icon
Send me your ideas or comments: dee@mail.wsu.edu























Glossary Icon
To the Glossary of World Cultures
Back to the World Cultures to 1500 Charles Murray, Timepieces: Gen Ed 111 Icon
Back to General Education 111 Home Page
World Cultures

World Cultures Home Page


1996, Richard Hooker
Updated 9-18-96